How would you improve yourself if you were your own psychiatrist?

In his second lecture in Iceland, Jordan Peterson gives a detailed account of how he would help a video game addict as a behavioural psychiatrist.

(Scroll down for the video.)

It goes something like this:

  1. What is the problem? I play about 3 hours of video games a day and it’s interfering with my life.
  2. What is your goal? Playing 1 hour a day would not interfere with my life.
  3. Could you cut down to 1 hour a day starting now? No, I’ve tried that many times before.
  4. Could you track your gaming time, without changing anything? Yes, I could that.

Next week:

  1. Did you do what we agreed? Yes, turns out I play 4 hours a day.
  2. Would you cut that down to 3.5 hours a day? I don’t think I would, to be honest.
  3. Would you cut it down to 3.5 for two days out of seven? Yes, I think I can.

Next week:

  1. How did you do? I managed to cut down to 3 hours a day for three days.
  2. GREAT! How did you manage that? [Then] Could you expand that to 5 days next week? Ok, I’ll try.

While tiny improvements seem inconsequential, they are truly not.

The “addict” might feel crummy about cutting down by only a handful of percentage points, but that’s foolish. It’s a measurable improvement in the right direction.

Keep that up for 10 years and your life will be indistinguishable.

Is there something you want to change about yourself?

Are you trying to change it overnight, and continually snap back to the old habit, time and time again?

Ask yourself this:

Why are you placing greater pressure for change on yourself than even an expert behavioural psychologist would place on you?

Bear in mind, having a coaching in your corner makes change easier than if you only try to change yourself by your own attempts. So, not only are you placing higher expectations on yourself than an expert would, you’re doing so while trying to improve yourself on your own!

Isn’t that sheer hubris?

Start by tracking the thing you want to change.

Then, every week, evaluate your behaviour. Be as graceful and non-judgmental as you would imagine a professional psychiatrist would be.

Imagine the conversation you would have with him.

The basic structure is to negotiate you down to the largest change that you are honestly confident you can achieve. That might be a very small change.

Every week, give yourself a BIG pat on the back if you made any improvement whatsoever.

If you slip back, don’t see it as failure. Simply see it as slipping back. Every week is a fresh thing. Your progress is not going to be a smooth line. It’s going to be jagged, with many, many slips. Expect that, and don’t judge yourself for being human.